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Diablo Lake | North Cascades, Washington

Diablo Lake is a beautiful lake in North Cascades National Park. It's located in the Skagit River Valley, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) northeast of Seattle.


The lake can be reached by driving along State Route 20, also known as the North Cascades Highway. Along the way, you can stop by several scenic viewpoints and hiking trails that offer breathtaking views of the lake and its surroundings.


The lake is known for its vibrant turquoise color. The unique hue is a result of "glacial flour," which is a fine silt formed by the grinding action of glaciers on the rock. As glaciers melt, they release this silt into the lake, giving it a striking blue-green appearance.

Diablo Lake | North Cascades, Washington


History of Diablo Lake

Diablo Lake, Washington was created as part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project, which involved the construction of three dams in the area. The project was initiated by Seattle City Light, the municipal electric utility of Seattle, in the 1920s.


Its aim was to harness the power of the Skagit River for electricity generation. This ambitious endeavor involved the construction of three dams: Gorge Dam, Diablo Dam, and Ross Dam.


Construction of Diablo Dam began in 1927 and was completed in 1930. The dam, a concrete arch-gravity structure, was built to create a reservoir that would regulate water flow and generate hydroelectric power. Rising to a height of 389 feet (118 meters), the dam impounded the waters of the Skagit River, resulting in the formation of Diablo Lake.



Diablo Lake Vista Point
Construction of Diablo Dam began in 1927 and was completed in 1930.

The Ross Dam, completed in 1949, blocks the Skagit River, forming Ross Lake upstream. Diablo Lake is the reservoir formed by the Diablo Dam, located further downstream.


Skagit River Valley

The Skagit River Valley is located in the northwest corner of Washington state. It was formed from runoff from the Cordilleran Glacier. It is characterized by the majestic Skagit River, which flows through the valley, and the surrounding North Cascade Mountains.



The Skagit River Valley is situated approximately 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Seattle. It extends from the high peaks of the North Cascade Mountains to Skagit Bay, part of the larger Puget Sound. The valley encompasses diverse landscapes, including rugged mountain ranges, lush forests, fertile farmlands, and river valleys.


The Skagit River is the lifeblood of the valley. Originating from the Canadian Cascades, it meanders through the region for approximately 150 miles (240 kilometers) before reaching Puget Sound. The river is known for its scenic beauty, emerald-green waters, and its importance as a habitat for various fish species, including salmon.


Rising over the lake you might notice some stunning mountains, including Snowfield Peak and Crater Mountain.


Diablo Lake Mountains
The Skagit River Valley is situated approximately 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Seattle.

The area around Diablo Lake, Washington is part of the North Cascades National Park Complex, a protected region known for its pristine wilderness. The national park complex aims to preserve the natural and scenic qualities of the North Cascades, including the ecological integrity of Diablo Lake and its surroundings.



Diablo Lake Weather

Diablo Lake experiences a climate typical of the North Cascades region, characterized by cool temperatures, significant precipitation, and distinct seasonal variations.


The temperatures at Diablo Lake can vary depending on the season. Summers are generally mild and pleasant, with average daytime temperatures ranging from the 70s°F (20s°C) to the 80s°F (high 20s°C). However, temperatures can occasionally reach into the 90s°F (mid-30s°C) during heatwaves.


Winters are colder, with average daytime temperatures ranging from the 30s°F (around 0°C) to the 40s°F (5-10°C). In higher elevations, such as the surrounding mountains, temperatures can drop significantly below freezing.


Diablo Lake Trail
If you're looking for Diablo Lake kayak rentals, you can do all that and more at Diablo Lake in the North Cascades National Park.


Diablo Lake receives a significant amount of precipitation throughout the year. The area is known for its wet climate, with rainfall occurring frequently. The heaviest rainfall typically occurs from late fall to early spring.


Winters at Diablo Lake are cold, with the potential for significant snowfall, particularly at higher elevations. The surrounding mountains are often covered in snow, providing opportunities for winter sports like skiing and snowshoeing. It's important to check weather and road conditions during this time, as winter storms can affect access to the area.


What to Do at Diablo Lake?

Diablo Lake is a paradise in the North Cascades. It's one of the landmarks of the area and often what brings people up from Seattle and Portland. If you're planning a visit, it's highly recommended to plan out a few different activities at Diablo Lake. You might be interested in:

  • Hiking

  • Swimming

  • Fishing

  • Kayaking and Canoeing

  • Camping



Diablo Lake Overlook

The Diablo Lake Overlook, or the Diablo Lake Vista Point, is a not-to-be-missed spot along the water. It's the perfect place to get a truly spectacular view of the lake from above and the spot from where most pictures of the lake are taken. It's located around mile 131. It's a particularly popular spot to view the lake in the fall when you can see the leaves starting to change.


It's the best Diablo Lake vista point you could want.


Diablo Lake
The temperatures at Diablo Lake can vary depending on the season. Summers are generally mild and pleasant.

Kayaking, Paddling, and Boating

If you're looking for Diablo Lake kayak rentals, you can do all that and more at Diablo Lake in the North Cascades National Park. It is a picturesque destination that beckons adventurers to indulge in kayaking, paddling, and boating.



Paddling, including canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding, provides diverse options for exploring the lake, catering to families, groups, and individuals seeking tranquility or an active water adventure. Boating enthusiasts can enjoy motorboats, rowboats, or pontoon boats, each offering a unique way to experience the lake's beauty.


To enhance the experience, Ross Lake Resort offers kayak and canoe rentals, allowing visitors to conveniently access Diablo Lake. Renting equipment eliminates the need for storage or transportation hassles, making it accessible for all.


Hiking at Diablo Lake

There are a variety of really wonderful trails near Diablo Lake. Some of these, that we really love, include:


Diablo Lake Trail

7.2 miles, 1,500' elevation gain

The trail presents breathtaking views of the iconic Diablo Lake and its vibrant turquoise waters, nestled amidst towering mountain peaks and lush greenery. With a moderate difficulty level, hikers can expect a moderately challenging yet enjoyable journey.


It's an out-and-back trail that starts on Diablo Dam Road near the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.



Ross Lake Trail

1.4 miles, 360' elevation gain

Ross Dam Trail is a moderately challenging out-and-back trail located near Diablo Lake, within the Ross Lake National Recreation Area. Spanning a length of 1.4 miles, this trail offers a rewarding adventure for hikers and walkers alike. With an elevation gain of 360 feet, it presents a moderate ascent, adding to the scenic allure of the journey.


Diablo Lake Overlook
Paddling, including canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding, provides diverse options for exploring the lake.

Happy Panther Trail

12 miles, 2,300' elevation gain

The Happy Panther Trail is a challenging 12.1-mile out-and-back trail located near Diablo Lake, within the Ross Lake National Recreation Area. With an elevation gain of 2,322 feet, this trail offers a rewarding adventure for experienced hikers seeking a more strenuous trek.


Diablo Lake Camping

There are a few different Diablo Lake Campground options that offer beautiful nearby camping.



Colonial Creek South Campground

Diablo Lake's Colonial Creek Campground is perhaps the most popular camping option near the lake.


Colonial Creek South Campground is a bustling campground located in a remote and scenic area, nestled within the old-growth forest on the south side of State Route 20 near mile marker 130.

Diablo Lake Sunset
The Happy Panther Trail is a challenging 12.1-mile out-and-back trail located near Diablo Lake.

This campground offers a range of camping options, including tent-only sites, walk-to/boat-to sites, and group sites. During the winter season, ten walk-in, tent-only sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, while reservations are required from late May to September.


You can even see Colonial Creek Falls nearby!



Colonial Creek North Campground

Colonial Creek North Campground is a bustling campground located in a remote and picturesque setting, surrounded by old-growth forest near mile marker 130 on the north side of State Route 20. The campground offers 41 campsites, each nestled amidst the lush forest and offering scenic views of Diablo Lake.


Colonial Creek Falls

Recreational opportunities abound at Colonial Creek North Campground. Visitors can enjoy a fully accessible fishing pier and boat launch, providing convenient access to Diablo Lake for fishing and boating activities.


Hikers of various abilities can explore the nearby Thunder Creek and Thunder Knob trails, which offer diverse hiking opportunities amidst the natural beauty of the area.


The campground features a range of amenities and facilities to enhance visitors' experience.



Gorge Lake Campground

Gorge Lake Campground is a serene and primitive camping area situated on the scenic bank of Gorge Lake, adjacent to the cascading Stetattle Creek.


This campground provides a rustic camping experience without water facilities. During the winter season, campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, while summer reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance.


The Upper Goodell Group Camp is a small campsite off Highway 20 that provides access to the Goodell Creek Trail and the Southern Pickets, including West McMillan Spire, Inspiration Peak, and Chopping Block.


Picnic Pavillion at Upper Goodell Creek Campground

The Upper Goodell Group Camp is a quiet site that will accommodate up to 30 people and 10 cars. The site includes a few basic accommodations. It's important to note that the site will not accommodate RVs or large buses.


Lodging

If you're not in the camping mood, there are a few nearby options for lodging near Diablo Lake.



Hampton Inn & Suites Burlington

Located in Burlington, about 18 miles from Diablo Lake. It offers convenient access to I-5, clean and comfortable rooms, and a good breakfast.


Comfort Suites Burlington Near I-5

Also located in Burlington, approximately 18.5 miles from Diablo Lake. The hotel has great rooms, clean facilities, a full breakfast, and easy access to restaurants, shopping, and the freeway. It's a good option if you don't want to commit to camping but also don't want to spend a lot of money.


La Quinta Inn Suites By Wyndham Burlington

Situated in Burlington, around 18.7 miles from Diablo Lake. It has a convenient location, modern facilities, comfortable beds, and friendly and helpful staff.


Wingate By Wyndham Mount Vernon

Located in Mount Vernon, approximately 19.0 miles from Diablo Lake. The hotel has a friendly and helpful staff, spacious rooms, comfortable beds, and easy access to nearby attractions.


Diablo Lake Fog

Fairfield Inn & Suites Burlington

Situated in Burlington, about 18.2 miles from Diablo Lake. It offers clean and comfortable rooms, a good morning breakfast, and competent and friendly hotel staff.


Diablo Lake Resort

Near Diablo Lake, you might want to spend time at the Ross Lake Resort. It includes 15 cabins that float along the water and offers boat and paddle rentals and water taxi service to the other side of the lake. To get there, you'll need to hike 1 mile from the highway or take the Seattle City Light Ferry.



FAQs

Why is the Diablo Lake so blue?

Diablo Lake is so blue because of "glacial flour," which is a fine silt formed by the grinding action of glaciers on the rock.

Is Diablo Lake safe to swim in?

How long of a hike is Diablo Lake?

What is the closest town to Diablo Lake?



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